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Camera Japan, the premier Dutch showcase for Japanese film, returns for its 14th edition this September with another fantastic selection of recent indie and mainstream cinema. This year’s theme is “youth” and the programme has a special focus on films made by or about young people.

Contemporary Cinema

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  • 12 Suicidal Teens – 12 teens meet in an abandoned hospital to commit mass suicide but instead find themselves trying to solve the mystery behind the death of a young boy in a youthful drama from 20th Century Boys’ Yukihiko Tsutsumi.
  • Another World – three childhood friends reunite but find it difficult to escape from the shadow of the past in Junji Sakamoto’s tale of frustrated male bonding. Review.
  • Astral Abnormal Suzuki-san – indie comedy in which a young YouTuber and her family become part of a TV show.
  • Bento Harassment– A single mother fed up with her teenage daughter’s nonsense starts sending passive aggressive messages through bento in a tale inspired by a real life blog.
  • The Chaplain – the final film from the late Ren Osugi in which he plays a compassionate preacher ministering to those on death row. Review.
  • The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine – Takahisa Zeze’s Taisho era tale of female sumo warriors and bohemian anarchists. Review.
  • Every Day a Good Day – charming tea ceremony memoir starring Haru Kuroki and the late Kirin Kiki. Review.
  • The Fable – a top hitman is given the challenge of laying low as a normal person for a year only to be sucked into yakuza drama. Heartfelt zany fun! Review.
  • Fly Me to the Saitama – the residents of Saitama have become an oppressed minority in this surreal comedy from the director of Thermae Romae. Review.
  • Hard-Core – an overly idealistic slacker and his simple-hearted buddy make friends with a damaged robot while accidentally getting mixed up in dangerous politics in Nobuhiro Yamashita’s adaptation of the cult manga. Review.
  • Jam – Sabu gets back to his roots with a tale of three guys on the run. Review.
  • Jesus – a little boy discovers he has a friend in tiny Jesus only to find himself feeling betrayed in Hiroshi Okuyama’s whimsical debut. Review.
  • Just Only Love – a lovelorn OL realises her boyfriend’s not that into her in Rikiya Imaizumi’s romantic drama.
  • The Kamagasaki Cauldron War – Osaka’s “invisible slum” is thrown into chaos when someone steals the local yakuza’s ritual bowl. Review.
  • A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad’s an Alcoholic – a young woman struggles to take care of herself when her mother joins a cult and her dad takes to drinking.
  • Little Miss Period – surreal drama starring Fumi Nikaido in which periods are anthropomorphised as giant pink heart-shaped buddies.
  • Love at Least – sensitive drama in which a young woman with bipolar tries to face up to her feelings for her supportive (perhaps too much so) boyfriend when his manipulative ex shows up and starts interfering in her life. Review.
  • Melancholic – a Todai graduate slums it in a bathhouse only to discover the place doubles as a yakuza killing ground after hours. Review.
  • Mimicry Freaks – intense horror film in which a man wakes up on a hospital bed in the woods to be told he was executed thirty years previously.
  • My Dad is a Heel Wrestler – a nine-year-old boy exaggerates his wrestler dad’s success in this charming comedy starring real life wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi.
  • My Father the Bride – a woman returns to her island home for the second anniversary of her mother’s death only to find her father wearing her mother’s clothes and apparently about to marry a man.
  • Okinawan Blue – three tales intertwine at an Okinawan guest house.
  • Only the Cat Knows – the disappearance of the family cat symbolises the distance in a long term marriage in a whimsical romantic drama starring legendary actors Chieko Baisho and Tatsuya Fuji with a notable cameo from Mikako Ichikawa. Review.
  • Orphan’s Blues – poetic drama in which a young woman with unexplained memory loss determines to track down a childhood friend. Review.
  • Queer Shorts – two mid-length queer films including Shun Nakagawa’s Kalanchoe in which a high school class becomes curious about their LGBT lessons, and Mika Imai’s Until Rainbow Dawn in which two deaf women fall in love.
  • Red Snow – impressionistic mystery starring Masatoshi Nagase and Arata Iura in which a journalist’s investigation of a thirty year old child disappearance begins to open old wounds. Review.
  • Rise of the Machine Girls – reboot of Noboru Iguchi’s classic splatter franchise.
  • Samurai Marathon – period drama directed by Bernard Rose in which the local lord’s idea of training his out of shape men through a marathon is misconstrued by the Shogun. Review.
  • Vision – Juliette Binoche goes rare herb hunting for Naomi Kawase.
  • We Are Little Zombies – four bereaved kids deal with their ennui in the time honoured fashion of going on an adventure and starting a punk band in Makoto Nagahisa’s anarchic drama. Review.

Classics

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  • Crazed Fruit – Sun Tribe classic starring Yujiro Ishihara and his future wife Mie Kitahara alongside Masahiko Tsugawa in a tale of youth gone wild as two brothers fall for the same girl.
  • I Was Born, But… – Ozu’s classic silent movie in which two boys fear losing face to their friends over their dad’s less than impressive job. Review. Will be screened with live instrumentation from Gonçalo Almeida, Riccardo Marogna, and Phillip Ernsting.
  • Kids Return – youthful drama from Takeshi Kitano in which two lost young men muse on missed opportunities. Review.
  • The Legend of the Stardust Brothers – rediscovered cult gem from Macoto Tezka following the rise to fame of two aspiring pop stars. Review.
  • The Sun’s Burial – Nagisa Oshima classic set in the slums of Kamagasaki.
  • Tetsuo: The Iron Man – Shinya Tsukamoto’s legendary cyberpunk masterpiece.

Documentaries

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  • Day of the Western Sunrise – partially animated documentary interviewing the surviving sailors of Lucky Dragon No. 5.
  • Kampai! Sake Sisters – documentary focussing on three women in the sake trade which has historically been a very male profession.
  • Queer Japan – a joyful exploration of LGBTQ+ life in contemporary Japan.
  • Sending Off – Ian Thomas Ash returns with his latest doc following a doctor providing hospice care to patients in their homes.
  • Tower of the Sun – Kosai Sekine’s doc focussing on the famous Taro Okamoto statue constructed for World Expo in Osaka in 1970.

Animation

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  • Aragne: Sign of Vermilion – indie anime in which a young girl steps up to the plate after noticing a weird bug coming out of an old lady’s arm.
  • Chieri and Cherry – kids stop motion animation in which a girl and her stuffed toy try to save some puppies from a mean crow.
  • MAQUIA: When the Promised Flower Blooms – directorial debut from screenwriter Mari Okada in which a young immortal is exiled from her tribe and raises a human baby to maturity only to lose him to time. Review.
  • Penguin Highway – a precocious little boy determines to solve the mystery behind the random appearance of penguins in his small town. Review.

Camera Japan 2019 takes place across two weekends in Rotterdam (25th – 29th September) and Amsterdam (3rd – 6th October). Full information on all the films as well as ticketing links can be found on the official website. You can also keep up to date with all the latest news via Camera Japan’s official Facebook pageTwitter account, and Instagram channel.